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Innkeepers, The (2012)

Horror Rated R

A disappointment from writer-director-editor Ti West, whose The House of the Devil suggested a sharp genre stylist with the potential to take horror in a new direction.

The Innkeepers is oddly unremarkable: less surely controlled than Devil, less interesting in terms of form and, perhaps worst of all, not scary in the least. Sara Paxton and Pat Healy play employees at a historic hotel that is a few nights away from closing for good. Stuck on overnight duty with only a handful of guests in the building, the pair figures this is their opportunity to investigate the ghost stories that have long surrounded the place.

At first The Innkeepers seems to be following the mold of The House of the Devil – all creepy slow burn, then a gonzo-gore climax. Yet the burn here isn’t simply slow; it’s barely lit. Paxton and Healy mostly engage in inane chit chat while some tame boo! moments hint at greater danger to come. The climax itself enlivens things up a bit, but is unlikely to quicken the pulse of horror veterans. (In the words of Healy’s character: “It’s not worth getting yourself worked up over.”)

The Innkeepers has a nice set of bookends. The opening credits appear over historic photos of the hotel, from its first days to the present time, while the final shot eerily echoes a startling early image. It’s not much, but I’ll take these flickers of craftsmanship as signs that West might dazzle us yet.